As a lifelong professional wrestling fan, Saturday night was almost a dream come true for me.
I had the joy of covering “Clash 21: The Final Bell” Saturday night at Four Winds Field in South Bend. Brian “The Crippler” Costello, who runs the event, allowed me to have access to talk to anyone and everyone at the show. For me, there was at least two people I had to talk to: “Cowboy” Bob Orton and J.J. Dillon.
I didn’t grow up watching Orton or Dillon, as they’re 68 and 77 years old, respectively, and I’m still only 24. But as a wrestling fan, I knew who these men were. I knew how much they influenced the professional wrestling business in the 1970s and 80s. Orton was involved in the first-ever WrestleMania main event. Dillon was the manager of The Four Horsemen, which was led by Ric Flair. These were two living legends, and I had a chance to talk to both.
I asked my standard “professional” questions about being at the event, what its like to be in the WWE Hall of Fame and whatnot. But since I had a chance to ask them more “fan” questions, I figured I would.
To clarify: I wasn’t being too nerdy about it. I maintained professionalism throughout the interviews. However, I did make sure to get pictures with both of them (my dad said he’d be disappointed in me if I didn’t. I can’t let my father down).
QUESTIONS FOR BOB
I asked Orton what he gets asked about most by fans (which also might be a question a lot of fans ask him about).
“A lot of people ask about the arm. A lot of people ask about Roddy (Piper). He was a great guy to be around and a great guy to be with. Never a dull moment with Piper,” Orton said.
“The arm” Orton was referring to was a cast he wore when he legitimately broke his arm in a match against Jimmy Snuka in 1985. However, Orton would go on to wear the cast for years despite the injury being actually healed. Orton would use the cast as a weapon to win matches.
Piper passed away in 2015 from a heart attack. Orton was noticeably emotional talking about his former teammate and friend.
I then asked him about his son, Randy, and how often Bob sees him. Randy currently wrestles for WWE on a full-time basis.
“I see Randy every week. I take him to the airport and I usually pick him up, just so we can see each other every once in a while,” Orton said. “We talk about the wrestling business. A little less and less of that over the past couple of years just because of family stuff.”
I’ve always been curious how Bob and Randy’s relationship was. I had never heard anything bad about it, but with Randy reaching the twilight of his WWE career, I wondered how much the two talked about the business. It was cool to hear him talk a little bit about how their relationship has evolved over time.
J.J’S CLEANEST RIC FLAIR STORY
The fan question I wanted to ask Dillon was simple: what is the cleanest Ric Flair story you can tell?
Along with being one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, Flair is a notoriously famous drinker. Some of the Flair partying stories are almost too good to be true, and I wanted to ask Dillon if the man lived up to the myth.
He does (this is a long story; you’ve been warned).
“We used to go to Bennigan’s, that was our favorite watering hole. We would be in a town somewhere and race to get to Bennigan’s in Charlotte before last call. And, so, my wife — at that point, was my second wife and Ric’s … I don’t know which wife that is, but Beth and Jennette. So, they were going to be at Bennigan’s to meet us when we got there. And, of course, when you’re coming in late, it’s, ‘OK, we’ve got to get caught up.’
“Ric and Beth, it didn’t take much to get them (drunk). They had gotten a babysitter — Ashley was just tiny; you could carry her in the palm of your hand. So, they had a babysitter for that and we were at Bennigan’s. Ric was feeling his oats and then Beth and my wife could only take so much. So, Beth put her purse down and said, ‘I’m going to leave.’ Well, Ric punted it through the front door. So, they left and he said, ‘I’m going to get (Ashley). You’ll never see her again!’
“She was going to go to Ric’s house. He was going to go to (his) house before she got there before she would get the baby. So, we somehow got to the house before the girls did. The last thing I remember was I pull up to the front door of Ric’s house, he jumps out of the passenger side, I open the front door side. The engine’s running, we’ve both been drinking. All of a sudden, I’m sound asleep. It’s daylight. I go inside — Ric’s asleep in the fetal position underneath the crib; baby’s gone.
“That’s a Ric Flair story that’s as true as can be.”
Flair’s daughter, Ashley, currently wrestles in WWE under the ring name “Charlotte Flair.” Talk about irony.
Austin Hough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 325. Follow Austin on Twitter @AustinHoughTGN